Transcendental Pessimism

We spent the evening discussing the implications of this alarming but not easily dismissable prediction.


Urlembed didn’t actually work btw.

There is a follow up to the video in that article here.

No 3D printing today, the staff member I was to do handover with was off unwell.

Caught up on correspondence with a number of people. Going to bed early and looking forward to a productive weekend. We have a fence to build, costumes to work on and we have been scheming an obstacle course for the boys. Starting simpler than this spectacular example though.








Candlebark is an extraordinary school.

But I knew that. I read the principal John Marsden’s books as a teenager and young adult and have I have been reading articles and following their development as a school since before I became a teacher. Candlebark and Brightworks are two of the most interesting experiments in education I know of and only Candlebark is accessible to us.


Hanging Rock is quite close to the school

One of my overarching impressions is of trust. This school trusts its students. They do not expect them to always do the right thing, or recognise all risks or behave with ‘adult’ maturity.

But they do trust them.

They trust them to move around the school independently, they trust them to feed themselves at the communal meals, they trust them to clean up after themselves.

I can’t stress enough that trusting students is a really radical idea in modern Australian education. I spend an inordinate amount of time, particularly as a relief teacher, setting expectations for and making students, often by repetition, walk in quiet neat lines for movement about the school. It is completely pointless, an activity that they will never repeat outside of the military in adulthood. It serves no useful purpose whatsoever. Children after all really only have two speeds; run or sleep, this school indulges that. Teachers say; meet me at such and such a place in five minutes and they leave the how up to the children, many of whom have bikes and scooters on campus for just such purpose.

They trust students to finish tasks and they expect them to do so. They do not set weekly busywork homework but they do expect incomplete work to be done in a student’s own time and returned. Students do take on tasks and projects that will only reach completion in the students own time.

They trust students to play safely within a large area of wilderness and to take first aid kits and walkie talkies if they are going out of what I gather are mostly visual limits. Pre-prep spend half days in the bush with sandwiches playing and learning how to move safely in that environment.

I asked a lot of questions but not enough and for my inattentiveness, N didn’t get to ask enough of her own at all. They had good answers for most. I didn’t ask enough questions about how a typical school day ran for students. How it is they incorporate National and Victorian curriculums into their format. I saw within different classrooms evidence of work on homophones, multi modal science units, the only pleasant sounding recorder lesson I have ever heard and a great variety of visual art. I saw students using blades and hot glue, riding bikes, playing chess and reading.

I saw not one single piece of Crafp.


The Crafp Cycle (Illustration due an update to comply with my ‘No stick figures’ class rules)

They have a Stephanie Alexander model school garden and they are actively using it. They have chooks and a pig, horses and a school dog. Students are able to spend time with the animals and be involved in their care. Food is prepared by cooks and the whole school eats together informally but off china with utensils. Food as with all excursions, camps and materials are included in the moderate but far from extreme fees. Only the instrumental music program costs extra.

They actively teach and have lessons devoted to chess, performance, public speaking, self reliance, bush craft, animal husbandry and problem solving. They do week long single topic focus study. They have an exciting curiosity driven pedagogy.

They only have one computer lab and students are only allowed in it accompanied by an adult. The justification here being that they believe “Students spend enough time device focused at home”. The limits of trust found here with screen time are interesting. Although each room has a projector and teachers use them widely, students are not permitted devices at school except on buses, where music is allowed. I am sure some people will think this is all very well and it is clearly working for the school. I think that there is perhaps a kernel of neo-ludditism to the protocol. But the children and screen time debate is a rant for another evening altogether.

It appeared visibly less multicultural than even the local public school here in Cobar. Unfortunately I think that this is a common feature of alternative education in Australia. I am not going to speculate on the why, only say that it is disappointing. The cultural melting pot of an inner city school doesn’t work everywhere but it does have real value in breaking down cultural barriers and stereotypes.

Candlebark is much better suited than most schools to prepare children for the challenges of the coming decades.

In particular this school better than any other I have so far been to is set up to give students the skills to survive mass automation and runaway climate change. Unfortunately it is also poorly geographically situated. Bush fires are an ever present risk and climate change will only exacerbate this.

The school takes fire safety very seriously. They have a fire bunker building (The library) capable of sheltering for the whole school, but they plan on never needing it. The school has its own buses and will evacuate well in advance of a fire front if it ever came to that. Also as red alert days are usually announced at least a day in advance they simply close the school on such days. At the moment they typically lose three to six days of school this way each year. That number is destined to rise. The Macedon ranges are pretty but very, very vulnerable to fire and the school and the new high school they have purchased are both in fairly thickly forested areas.

I would love to work there, it is clear that teaching is valued and rewarding and fun in that school. I would be happy to send my children there and we will be lodging an application pack even though we are not yet sure that we actually want to live close enough to do so. It isn’t perfect but it is a bloody good school and we can’t rule it out.


We had planned to drive direct from our Candlebark interview home to Cobar, but as we didn’t get on the road until three thirty the eight and a half hour drive had to be broken up for safety. We spent the night in a dive motel in Griffith after nine. Ate Mc dissapointment for breakfast and were home for lunch yesterday. All with a touch of sun and a feeling of serotonin debt that hasn’t quite passed yet. F has gotten sick and I’m fighting a sore throat. I got to see the local dance troupes annual performance on relief with year ones today. Which was… lets say an experience. Learning to use the public school’s 3D printer tomorrow.




On Bullying


I survived bullying. I was called gay from late year five until I left high school and went to Tafe in the city at the end of grade 10.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t gay, not even slightly. It didn’t matter that family members and family friends were gay and I didn’t have issue with it. The label stuck, provoked a reaction and haunted me for years. The staff mostly didn’t get involved. Close friends wouldn’t hang out with me within sight of school peers. School was a pretty unrelenting misery, I have but a handful of good memories or lasting friendships from that time, barely any which were from within my actual year level. It was a dark and depressing period and it marked me for decades to come. Distrust of authority, body image issues, loneliness and trust issues as well as an overwhelmingly negative view of academia are among the lasting effects I have dealt with and I believe largely overcome.

I have been thinking about posting on the topic for some time. My high school cohort is going to celebrate a twenty year anniversary of a year twelve I didn’t attend this year. I didn’t attend the ten year and I have no compulsion to attend this one. I have mentally forgiven my antagonists but I have no desire or need to see what has become of them.

The announcement that thirteen year old Tyrone Unsworth committed suicide after a campaign of bullying based on his supposed sexuality touched a nerve. It is deeply sad and disappointing that people are still dying for who they love in supposedly progressive societies the world over. I believe his death could have been averted if people had stood up for him, challenged his antagonists and demanded better from them. The school will doubtless have to audit its monitoring and management procedures. I hope that among their responses is the introduction of  the Safe Schools Program

There will be a lot of baying for blood from “concerned citizens” targeting the alleged bullies families and the alleged oblivious staff of the school. This is deeply unhelpful. Believe me when I say that there was a time when I wanted to see violence visited upon my antagonists. I and the thousands of other bullying victims around the world understood, to our shame, a little of what drove the Columbine boys to their awful end. Every authoritarian punishment based response to bullying I have observed has backfired, often badly. I have seen restorative justice both succeed and fail to deal with victimisation of students peers. In fact the only actually successful anti bullying technique I have ever encountered is the ‘Method of Shared Concern‘. Blaming and hating on the perpetrators doesn’t help the victims, it just makes the perps better at hiding their crimes.


Programs which normalise acceptance, compassion and community are the strongest weapons we have against bullying and the bigotry and medieval morality of an outspoken group of religious fundamentalists should not be permitted to get in the way of their implementation.



Homework and preparation for the big drive.

Tomorrow morning we embark on a four day expedition to visit Candlebark and explore the surrounding suburbs.

Tue 15th


This stunning and shocking piece of investigative journalism by 4Corners cast a bit of a pall over my day. It brought back memories of the situations a number of close friends were living with and dealing with, when at 16 I and they were first living out of home. Thankfully none of our situations, and mine least of all, were ever quite so dire, but for grace and so on. I recommend it and I look forward to seeing the system that has festered hidden from public view undergo an unpleasant bleaching in the sun over the coming months.

This piece by Michael Moore helped cheer me up some.


A day with kindergarten has left me exhausted but I aim to do a spot of editing and a little painting too. Dying to cut some more foam but it is not going to happen this evening.

Mon 14th


Completed L’s helmet Sir Vader knight helmet, began the chestplate and gorget. Build video to come.

Printing out a to do list of projects itemised for display above my computer.

Potato quality pics grabbed from footage, just for this.




At work today I these lovely illustrated and encyclopaedicly annotated editions of classic works. They are hard to search for thanks to the generic nature of the edition ‘The Whole Story’ but so far I have found:

Treasure Island, White Fang, Huckleberry Finn, Around the world in 80 Days, Call of the Wild & Jungle book.

They are really very well put together. My father read Treasure Island to me as a child but a lot went straight over my head. With these pictures, diagrams, lithographs and paintings it would have made more sense. I’m thinking I will grab them second hand for my class bookshelf and to read to the boys when they get older.


The Whole Story: "Treasure Island" (Classics in Context): Stevenson, Robert Louis The Whole Story: "Jungle Book" (Classics in Context): Kipling, Rudyard



The aftermath continues. I read this piece on surviving autocracies and this funny collection of ObamaBiden memes.

A choice few:


These memes are saving my sanity #obamabiden #saveme

A photo posted by Whit (@konbanwhit) on

Enough it is Westworld night.




I’ve spent the last two evenings editing together a build vlog for the first piece of foam costume armour I started back on Thursday. It is still ten minutes too long and thus not done. I have a new found respect for people like Casey Neistat, who are producing a video a day. Presumably you very quickly get in the habit of making shots count, otherwise hours will be spent trawling through footage and making cuts. More experience with Premier is doubtless helpful as well. I’d love to post it but I’m taking a break to paint tonight. Going to apply lessons learned in the filming of the next segments.

Huge outdoor day today. We made a trip to the farm, collected new fencing materials and load of hay. Borrowing a ute, we made two trips to the dump and finally rid ourselves of the pile of rotten timber, metal scraps and crap that has been expanding and blocking up the back corner of the garden since we arrived. Also raided the dump and a town skip for a collection of fresh palettes and a massive pile of cardboard boxes.


Some interesting things are being written in the wake of the Trump election. I am a believer in the long peace. But I acknowledge that the peace is on thin ice both literally and metaphorically. For anyone still struggling to come to terms with the US result I have a couple of recommendations. This surprisingly accurate piece from is an excellent start. A breakdown of voter demographics demonstrates that a million less young people voted in this election than in 2012. Pundits will blame many things for this but to me it is obvious; young Americans overwhelmingly backed Sanders. When the DNC screwed him they became disengaged if not outright hostile to Clinton. This was further compounded by pre-polling giving many the impression that Clinton would have an easy win, thus they at least, didn’t have to vote for her.



I’m excited. But by golly it better be as good as it looks.


Everything’s Shit

So that gastro bug got me after all. Had to leave work and have a good lie down. No vomiting for me so far fortunately.

I woke to find that 2016 has gone 3 for 3 in bad election outcomes. Yay!


I take no pleasure in saying it. I told you so.

Even a day ago I thought maybe, maybe it is going to be OK. Maybe Clinton will scrape a win and actually show some spine and the dire climate trajectory we are on could be turned around.

But no. Nothing good will come of this.

For me culpability for this catastrophic fecal tsunami falls squarely on the shoulders of the DNC, The Clintons and the media that colluded with them and in turn gave so much attention to the demagogue. They brought a knife to a gun fight. They got beaten by new media, memes and fucking 4chan. This election was about antiestablishmentism and they, through collusion, media blockading and occasional outright fraud selected the most divisive and unpopular establishment democratic candidate of my lifetime. In so doing they shafted the one candidate that could not only have beaten Trump but could actually have led the fight against neoliberalism and climate change globally.

I don’t want to sound too pessimistic but at this point I honestly think another American civil war is not out of the realm of possibility. Not straight away, but when the lists start forming and the camps begin filling, when the little injustices and the overt bigotry begin to grate on people a year or two down the line. Things may get very ugly indeed.

Anyway western civilisation we had a pretty good run. It is a shame but I have had a saying for years now;

“If we can’t convince our democratically elected leaders to change, we probably deserve to go extinct

It’s just a pity we will take so much of the biosphere with us, but hey evolution has time for a few more experiments before the sun expands.





On Politics

I have participated in two elections this year. I voted remain in the UK and Green in the Australian federal election for both houses. Both of those elections were close and extremely disappointing. Obviously the AU Greens were never in with a shot at many more seats in the house of reps but the LibLab battle was a close one. The depths of my dissapointment in the Australian electorate cannot be overstated. Yet another three to four years of corrupt, visionless, selfinterested nincompoops in charge.

As for Brexit… Well lets just say that I’m glad my UK passport is via Scottish heritage. UK Labor continues to shoot themselves in the foot and seems willing to spend decades in opposition rather than, you know, listen to their constituents and represent some progressive democratic socialism.

I obviously cannot vote in the US election.

Earlier in the year, back during the primaries I watched with bated breath as Clinton and Sanders battled it out. Even as a Clinton Candidacy became a forgone conclusion I predicted vocally that if it became Clinton V Trump, Clinton would lose.

I really, really hope I was wrong.

I backed Bernie and I think it is one of the great tragedies of modern politics that thanks at least in part to malfeasance within the DNC we didn’t get to see Sanders actually wipe the floor with Trump.

Depending on where you look the US presidential election looks either a sure thing for Clinton or scary close.


Until recently I  honestly wasn’t sure who the worst candidate was. It is very much a Beast vs Smiler affair and there was not an immediately apparent least worst option for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am saying that I don’t like either of them with fairly equal vehemence. Clinton is a neolib a warmonger and firmly represents the status quo, she has deep social and fiscal ties with the fossil fuel industry and the banksters. She will perpetuate some of the worst elements of American foreign policy through the next decade. Worst of all I have absolutely zero confidence in her willingness to act decisively on climate change, which is now beyond urgent.


Trump though, Trump is a monster. He has clearly outed himself as the worst option. He is perceived as an outsider candidate, to paraphrase Michael Moore, he is the Molotov the poor, disillusioned and disenfranchised can lob into the parliaments that have failed them. He will of course, if elected, fail them in new, interesting and spectacular fashion. The fact that he was and is even given the dignity of attention represents a failure of the media globally. I mean this is a man who managed to bankrupt a casino, A Casino! That shouldn’t even be possible. He should be treated like the repugnant prolapsed sphincter that he is and forgotten.

The status quo is not good enough, but it is nowhere near as bad as a Trump presidency could be for everyone on earth.


The link that got me started:

“Also, the large number of people that was unable to interpret our tool as anything but an effort to support or oppose a political candidate — and that was true for both liberals and conservatives — speaks to me about an ineffective public sphere. And that’s something I think we should all be concerned about. This polarization is not just a cliché. It is a crippling societal condition that is expressed in the inability of people to see any merit, or any point, in opposing views. That’s a dangerous, and chronic, institutional disease that is expressed also in the inability of people to criticize their own candidates, because they fear being confused with someone their peers will interpret as a supporter of the opposing candidate. If you cannot see any merit in the candidate you oppose, even in one or two of the many points that have been made, you may have it.”

Discussing this tool:




There and Back Again



In the past two weeks I have been to The Netherlands, Wales and a whole variety of places in England.

Amsterdam is a complicated, confusing, beautiful city. The division between the tourist trap, “coffee” and smart shop fueled, stoner city and the arty, bohemian cool of the Jordaan suburb feels remarkably well delineated. I’d really like to spend more time there.

I do like the positive, more relaxed and accepting attitude the Dutch have to drugs and sex but the experience of Amsterdam is marred by that being the main tourist attraction. I would really like to see a city where those attitudes are normal without an accompanying industry being made from tourists reveling in their freedoms for the first time.


#amsterdam knows how to throw an #edm #festival. #awakenings #awakeningsfestival

A photo posted by @liatach on

Among the many things we saw and did there, the Saturday we spent at the Awakenings festival and the visit to the bodyworks exhibition were my highlights. The level of organisation and the scale of the music festival was extraordinary. Oddly it finished at a 11PM but a grand day and night out was had by all.


Yes this is a flayed cadaver playing saxophone.

I missed the Gunther Von HagensBodyworlds exhibition when it came to Australia years ago. So I was very eager to see it at its permanent home. I was not disappointed. It is amazing and bizarre. The whole experience is made more peculiar by the twee, “Happiness is good for your health” messages displayed and inserted throughout the exhibition. These are in contrast to the remarkable preserved cadavers, unpleasant medical conditions and genuinely creepy character of Gunther Von Hagens himself. A man who meets too many criteria on the mad scientist supervillan list to be taken seriously when he encourages you to ‘Don’t worry be happy’.

Post bucks weekend we turned over the guest house and headed south for the wedding of Steven and Jill in a wee town outside Swindon.


Massive chunks of stone and bored children.


If only that cow had better aim it’d have an eye.

The wedding was lovely, the hotel grand and even my speech went down well. Two nights in Swindon flew by and we headed west via some standing stones, a chalk horse and a roman ruin to visit maternal relatives in Wales. Cardiff was a hoot and included a tour of a significant portion of the local playgrounds, much to the delight of L and F.




Perspective art on the barrage in #cardiff.

A photo posted by @liatach on

Post Wales we headed back east for dinner with friends in London and two nights in a grand old dive of a hotel in Slough. From where we went to…


Which was, as expected a grand day out. We had hoped to stay at the Lego hotel for the complete experience but we left it too late and prices became outrageous. Some of the outdoor Lego pieces have seen better days, green slime in the water features, cracked and faded plastic on the builds, awful expensive food, and labyrinthine park layout. All did not matter, the rides were great and everyone left beaming.

The submarine ride through a giant fish tank with sharks and Lego Atlantis was my favourite. Unfortunately F was too small for many rides but had a great time regardless, L was only just tall enough for some of the big rides.

Lego city firemen, Viking splash and Star Wars Miniland featured among L’s highlights.

The whole day was improved by the accompaniment of my wonderful cousin Jenny.

Post Lego we drove in one mad and seemingly endless day from London back to Glen Orchy Scotland and collapsed into our own beds again. Four days later and normality is returning. Bedtimes are being pushed back to more reasonable hours and the washing is finally done.

Through all this I have of course been watching the slow motion train wrecks of Brexit and the Federal DD election in Australia. Thoughts on them another night.



Snapped in passing at a Moto on the way north. I like it because of Hitchhiker’s of course.

There is art to be done and further adventures to contemplate.

Racing Extinction

Watched ‘Racing Extinction‘ this evening.

It is a confronting and heart wrenching film. It is good for all that. Watch it.

Stylistically I had some issues with it, but I honestly don’t think I am the target audience. I’ve studied ecology and I know just how far up the proverbial creek we are if the Phytoplankton food chain collapses. That this threat is a real profound and present danger is something I and millions upon millions of others around the world have been doing our best to ignore for decades. I can’t ignore it anymore.

The pressure is on I am feeling a serious need to alter parts of my lifestyle and even more seriously parts of my pedagogy. I know about meat and methane and I am only now trying to cut our household consumption significantly. I know about flights and transport and as I have mentioned previously I plan to physically offset our adventures by planting and caring for the appropriate quantity of trees. I don’t think I can continue to sugar coat, brush off or play down the seriousness of climate change to school children. I am not saying here that I have in any way ever really sugar coated it. I’ve shown whole grades of year six students significant portions of  ‘There is no tomorrow‘ for goodness sake. Just that I have always been acutely aware that I don’t want to be sending little zealous climate nazis home to hassle their parents saying ‘Mr Lang says climate change is going to end the world’. What I am going to say instead I am putting some thought into because it can’t just be an impassioned rant. I want to communicate some of the urgency just how dangerous the game we have been playing is. But I do not want to give children nightmares or foster powerlessness, apathy and indifference.


The election is called and the prime minister didn’t even mention climate in his announcement speech.

Vote Compass is up.

I maintain that Vote compass should be as much a part of the Australian democratic tradition as the sausage sizzle. The latter of which I will miss by voting postal this year. This also marks only 7 days left to register to vote.

 Vote Compass 2016No surprises in my results.